Clay Cross Railway Station
If you draw a line straight across the middle of England, from Chester in the west to Skegness in the east, you will find Clay Cross lies more or less in the centre of England (see map).
Clay Cross is to the south of Sheffield, where the steel industry for a long time depended of the coal and iron ore mined from places like Clay Cross.
Clay Cross Station opened in 1840 to service the new mining community. The station was not in the centre of the town - to reach the station site you must travel a mile or so north-east to the northern opening of the tunnel that runs under the town. But sadly you will not find the station there today; it was closed in 1967 and the buildings demolished during the Beeching purge. The line, however, remains in use.
The High Street running through Clay Cross is part of the old Roman road known as Icknield Street, giving the area a known history of nearly 2,000 years. Icknield Street was an ancient British road which the Romans improved for their own use, from their 1st century fort at Derventio (near the modern-day town of Derby) northwards towards Chesterfield.
Like everybody else, Christian pilgrims would take advantage of this well established national road network and they erected many crosses marking the way. (See also Wayside Crosses). A cross at the junction of Clay Lane and Icknield Street is mentioned in the will of John Revell of Shirland (d. 1537), who bequeathed "to the mending of the lane between Stretton and the Claye Crosse tenne shillings", which would cover the labour costs of a builder for two or three weeks2.
Further south and west of the town is the area known as the 'English Potteries', which includes famous family companies such as Wedgwood and Minton. However, the 'Clay' of Clay Lane is unlikely to have any direct connection with that industry.
'Clay Lane' is a common name for any road which has not been deliberately surfaced with stones. In modern English we would simply say 'dirt track'. However, this does not mean the road was insignificant. Where a road surface was of strong clay, any additional stones would simply make the surface too bumpy.
Clay Lane is now covered in asphalt, the Station has gone, and the Cross has gone. But Clay Lane still exists and there is talk of building a new station in the town. As for the cross, well, there has been no change at all in its relevance.
Other railway stations with 'Cross' in the name